Classic11 Football Blog

Spraying off no-look passes and flip-flaps without a care in the world, every child wanted to be like Ronaldinho.

There was even a 23-foot fibreglass and resin statue erected of him in Chapecó in 2004 to celebrate El Gaucho becoming FIFA World Player of the Year for the first time. “He transmits a lot of joy and pleasure playing the game,” said then Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard about Ronaldinho during the 2005-06 season, “and he has individual skills that are of such a high level that everybody in the world adores him”.

One of those admirers was aiming to break into Barcelona’s first team at the time, whilst the Brazilian terrorized top-class defenders. He looked up to Ronaldinho and watched closely the way he trained and lived his life, as this young Argentine was to become arguably the best player in football history; going by the name of Lionel Messi. “Ronnie has been massively important for me,” Messi said later on in his sparkling career, “I was so young when I started to come into Barça’s dressing room, but he made a point of being first to step up to me and look after me. I try to copy little things Ronaldinho does, but more fundamentally, I just try to play for the joy of it. Look at the way he always has a smile – that’s how I feel”. That buck-toothed smile became almost trademark, and his love of the game made others smile too. Ronaldinho was a role model to many.

One morning in 2008, on taking the reigns as manager of Barcelona, Pep Guardiola was wandering the buildings of his new training ground when he found Ronaldinho lying fast asleep on a massage bed, nursing a hangover. Guardiola, not afraid of dropping key players, decided he had to let Ronaldinho go if he were to obtain the correct mentality for his dressing room at the Nou Camp. He questioned Ronaldinho’s commitment to the game, saying in one of his first press conferences in the job: “If I felt that he wanted to be the player he was again, he would be here. But the situation has deteriorated and the solution is to build a strong dressing room”.



Essentially, Pep sold Ronaldinho because he was proving a poor role model for young players like Messi and because his party lifestyle did not adhere to the hard-working, dedicated ethic which Pep was trying to create amongst a dressing room of many players who liked to enjoy themselves off the pitch perhaps a little too much sometimes, such as Deco and Samuel Eto’o (despite the latter promising to work harder for Guardiola). A current FC Barcelona club ambassador having signed a contract in September 2016 to take on the role, and a club legend, Ronaldinho was being thrown out by the scruff of his collar like a drunk from a nightclub due to his partying antics.

“Ronaldinho joined Barcelona as a toothy-grinned wizard who had the club under his spell for three glorious seasons. He will leave a rather forlorn figure. Whether his magic has been exhausted or he just needs a new challenge remains to be seen.” – Simon Baskett, Reuters, July 2008

El Gaucho went on to experience a turbulent time at AC Milan after turning down a £25.5 million offer from Manchester City, with a frustrating first season seeing Ronaldinho appear mainly from the bench due to flaccid performances and ‘fitness issues’. Eleven goals and eight assists in 43 appearances was the worst statistical return of his career to that point. However he enjoyed a much better second season in a different role for the club, finishing on top of the Serie A assists chart in 2009/10, reportedly feeling ‘happy and complete, loved and respected’.

Turbulent also was his return to Brazil for the swansong of his playing career, with moments of brilliance overshadowed by off-the-field issues such as financial disputes and family bereavements.

For a player who left the world star struck with his tricks and skills, such a brief prime evoked disappointment among many fans, with an overwhelming sense of ‘what could have been’. So what really happened to the man behind the tricks to cause his sudden decline?

“There came a day when Ronaldinho, he of the eternal smile, allowed himself to be consumed by long nights of partying, with the corresponding hangovers that were slept off on a massage bed in the gym changing-room. It was free fall without return... he lost his love of the sport” – Guillem Balague, Messi: The Biography, 2013

The problem can be traced back to Brazil’s failure at the 2006 World Cup. After winning the tournament in 2002 alongside Ronaldo and Rivaldo, Ronaldinho this time round was part of an offensive quartet with Kaka, Adriano and Ronaldo. The ‘magic quartet’ were hyped up by many in the media including Nike’s Joga Bonito advertising campaign leading up to the tournament, as expectations grew higher and higher.

Brazil were knocked out of the World Cup by France in the quarter-finals, and the aforementioned 23-foot statue of Ronaldinho in Chapecó was destroyed by Brazilian vandals. Cue a publicised party at Ronaldinho’s house in Barcelona that same night,

aggravating the fans of the national side. In October of 2007, following omission from Brazil’s squad for the Copa América after reportedly asking to be excused from the squad due to fatigue, Ronaldinho returned to winning ways with his country with a 5-0 friendly win over Ecuador. This was followed by a night out in Rio De Janeiro, with the player allegedly leaving at 11am the following morning hiding from media attention in the back of a car. He was then benched by Barcelona after returning late to the squad.

“And that is where Ronaldinho’s love of the game died. The pressure had been excessive. He appeared to lose enthusiasm for a sport he had enjoyed playing for personal enjoyment. Friends who really loved Ronaldinho saw him sad and depressed from that summer onwards.” - Guillem Balague on Ronaldinho after the 2006 World Cup, Messi: The Biography, 2013

Perhaps Ronaldinho was trained so hard at a young age by coaches who wished to maximise his great potential that when he saw the enjoyment of the adult life he could be living, he simply could not resist. A young Ronaldinho would stay behind at training with Gremio’s youth teams for extra work, and trained with their first team to make his debut at a young age.

Ronaldinho has been described as a ‘big child, extremely innocent and an eternal pleasure seeker’. It seems he enjoyed life as a professional footballer just a tad too much. Players with so much talent should be protected like a young child to the poor choices of the world, but at the end of the day it is up to an individual how they choose to live their life. We are lucky to have witnessed such a magical, inspiring talent in his prime, however short that period was. Fallen star or simply just a sociable character, there is no doubting the glory and iconic status of Ronaldinho.

“When you play with him and see what he does with a ball, nothing surprises me anymore. One of these days, he will make the ball talk.” – Barcelona teammate Eidur Gudjohnsen on Ronaldinho, December 2006.

With Halloween creeping up on us tomorrow, we have selected a horror kit from the dark past of each of the current Premier League clubs. We don’t know if this ghastly gear was designed to intimidate opponents or provide some kind of distraction, but it is always amusing to look back at the moments in your club’s history when the designers tried a swanky new style and landed on their faces in the dirt – which is where some of the following shirts belong. Enjoy!



There were many shocking designs in the 90s, but this one resembled something from a building site. Remembered by some as vintage but by others as a disgrace to football shirts in general, this design from Adidas for Arsenal looks like a Watford fan has laid down their club home shirt on a motorbike stunt ramp and returned to collect it several days later to find it covered in tyre skid marks. The JVC sponsor should really read ‘JCB’, as it resembles a design for one of their tractors. Arsenal’s goalkeeper kit from a similar time with a giant star on the front surrounded by a background of smaller stars also warrants a mention, but we’ve gone with the construction-style kit.



Zig zags on a football kit just don’t work. Purple zig zags on a football kit with a pink, white and turquoise stripy background just make you look daft. What the kit manufacturers were thinking when they designed this shirt we’ll never know, but this is one to forget for Bournemouth fans – the kit manufacturers aren’t even displayed on the front of this shirt but on the arms instead... the phrase ‘cop out’ springs to mind.



Goalkeeper kits were renowned to often possess wacky features or designs especially during the 90s, but this just looks like something straight off children’s TV. Geometric designs were attempted many a time in the period, but this shirt made the Burnley goalkeeper somewhat of a laughing stock, so maybe the strikers would see it, be put off and scuff their shot.



Dmitri Kharine wore some awful goalkeeper shirts during his time, but we chose this as the worst in Chelsea’s history one not only due to the dog collar making him resemble a terrier, but also due to the mix of purple, blue and off white blocks. Was this shirt stitched together with random coloured rags and sheepskin?


Crystal Palace 

Yet another colourful goalkeeper shirt, this optical illusion takes the distraction principle much further. The kit resembles the curtains of a gypsy fortune teller, and makes Nigel Martyn look like a piece of psychedelic modern art.



Although most of these monstrosities can be consigned to the 90s, the 2010-11 Everton away kit perhaps attempted to make the statement ‘real men wear pink’. But in reality, it just made them look silly. Not just pink but fluorescent pink was the choice of Le Coq Sportif, who in two years’ time were switched for Nike by Everton as kit manufacturer. I wonder why.


Hull City 

Hull City had several tiger print kits in the early 90s. However, in the 94-95 kit, it appears as if the ‘big cats equality organization’ have been in touch. This edition of the club’s home shirt features not only tiger print, but also leopard print and even a hint of cheetah spots. The combination results in a jungle-themed eyesore. Sportswear manufacturer Pelada were asked to take over the kit design of Hull City after the club had fallen out with former designers Matchwinner, and after two years of this monstrosity, Pelada were ditched.


Leicester City 

It is said that if you stand in some parts of the world at a certain date and look up to the sky just before dusk, you may see the pattern from this Leicester City shirt. The Foxes’ spirographic keeper choice puts even some of the worst 90s keeper kits to shame, and goes down proudly as one of Leicester’s worst kits of all time.



What on earth is that? Those aren’t even tiger stripes they’re just strange markings, and even if they were meant to be, what relevance does the animal have to Liverpool Football Club? Three claws are swiped across this horrific keeper shirt, in keeping with Adidas’ three stripes trademark. To make everything even worse, the sleeves are different colours – one is orange and the other is yellow... did they run out of material? Too many unanswered questions.


Manchester City 

The 2000-02 away ‘tin foil’ silver kit was poor, as was the 1994-96 away shirt with random mesh shoulder patches, but this geometric 90s design in a horrible colour that resembles dry blood has to be the worst Man City kit ever.


Manchester United 

The sheepskin-like, blue and yellow-lined 1993-94 keeper kit worn by Peter Schmeichel was bad. The infamous grey 1995-96 kit was even worse, in which United trailed to Southampton 3-0 at half time when Sir Alex Ferguson claimed the players couldn’t see each other so had to change shirts. But this, blue and black tiger print with a giant badge stamped across the shirt was just an insult from Umbro. It looks like a five-year old child had won a competition in a kids’ football magazine to dress Eric Cantona and co.



Tonight Matthew, we’re going to be... Finland! Errea embarrassed Middlesbrough with this shirt in the 1996-97 season, with a shirt that looks like a half-decorated bathroom. It must have made it harder to win a football match wearing something like this, as Boro were relegated that season.



We could have gone for a keepers’ shirt for this one, but instead we present Southampton’s candy-cane-shouldered 1987-89 shirt. Here, Hummel create what eventually evolved into the half-and-half pizza option. A teenage Alan Shearer donned this number though, breaking onto the scene in 1988 with a hat-trick against Arsenal aged just seventeen.


Stoke City 

Despite being promoted to the second division in 1992-93, Stoke had to deal with wearing this away from home. Purple sound waves, really? SoundCloud wasn’t founded until 2007, but I doubt they took inspiration from this shirt.



We abstained from including the only current kit in the article (Sunderland’s pink and purple third kit for this season) due to what can only be described as disturbing. The chequered diminuendo from the bottom to the top of the kit makes you feel like you’re falling into an Alice in Wonderland-like rabbit hole and the four fake hands on the front of the shirt make it look like something is trying to catch you on the way. But nevertheless, who wouldn’t want a goalkeeper with six hands?


Swansea City 

This is like a polo your mate wore to the pub once and got ripped apart for it, ending up in the back of a charity shop because it can’t be put on display. Black stripes with a random red stripe make it look like a zebra in distress.


Tottenham Hotspur 

This was probably the same expression on the keeper’s face as when he saw the shirt he had to wear for the season. It seems Pony designed a kit made out of tea towels for Spurs in 1996-97.



Imagine the view of a short-sighted helicopter pilot with no glasses on looking down at a motorway. This seems to be what Hummel had gone for in the years 1993-95 for Watford’s away shirt, perhaps the thinking behind it was to distract the opposition into trying to count how many fuzzy traffic lanes there were on the shirt.


West Bromwich Albion 

Another shocker from Pelada, looks like someone just got a kaleidoscope for Christmas. The crazy colours sum up 90s goalkeeper kits, and this shirt is halfway between an early computer game and a jigsaw puzzle.


West Ham United 

To conclude our Premier League Horror Kits, here is West Ham’s 1995-96 ‘ecru’ away shirt. This colour was apparently favourable to go well with denim jeans, but in reality it is a horrible off-white colour which looks like your mum ran out of

Persil. Although Harry Redknapp’s time with the Hammers is remembered fondly, this shirt shouldn’t be.


Bonus Kit 

In line with the Halloween theme, here is CD Palencia’s haunting special edition kit based on the muscles of the human body. I bet this gets under the skin of the


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